being a teacher, being me, Literacy, making a difference, notice and note, Reading

Great Picture Books to Use for Contrast & Contradictions – Notice and Note

One of the main texts we use to guide our reading instruction is the amazing Notice and Note: Strategies for Close Reading by Kylene Beers and Robert Probst.  This book provides us with the foundation for having deeper reading conversations and a common language as we develop our thoughts.  While the book has excellent text ideas to use as mentor texts, I thought it would be nice for my students to use picture books on the very first day of a new strategy before we delve into the longer text excerpts.  I have therefore looked for picture books I could use with the different strategies and will publish posts as I have them for the 6 different strategies since I cannot be the only one looking for ideas.

First up, “Contrast & Contradictions.”  Here are a few picture books I have used or will use with the kids.

It’s like this picture book was written just for this lesson.  The Bad Seed by Jory John and illustrated by Pete Oswald features two changes in character and also a powerful message about trauma and what can happen to you even after bad things happen.
In Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress by Christine Baldacchino and Isabelle Malenfant, Morris goes from being sad and timid, unsure of his choice to wear a tangerine dress.  As the book progresses he changes as he realizes that he wants to be himself.
According to the boys watching Allie play, girls can’t play basketball.
In A Tale of Two Beasts by Fiona Robertson, the C&C is how the two sides view the story.
I Don’t Want to Be a Frog by Dev Petty and illustrated by Mike Boldt is C&C throughout.  The main character does not want to be what he is supposed to be and protests it every way he can.
As two cousins write to each other, we see the contrast (and similarities) between their lives.

Tuesday by David Wiesner started us off in our discussions about contrasts and contradictions.  This fantastic nearly wordless picture book is an easy entry into this discussion as it allows students to easily see how the magical event with the toads floating is in contrast to what frogs normally do.


With one of my classes I also used Rules of Summer by Shaun Tan, where the contrast lies in the rules being shared and the images.  While this one was a little more advanced for the students, they greatly enjoyed the illustrations and discussing what they might mean.

Another contrast and contradiction text between self and society in Mr. Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown where Mr. Tiger just will not conform.  When he tries to change his ways, he loses his real identity.

This Is A Moose by Richard T. Morris and Tom Lichtenheld is a great example of the contrast between what a moose is supposed to be like and what they really are.

The Story of Fish & Snail by Deborah Freedman is a wonderful example about change in a character as Snail is too scared to follow Fish on a new adventure.

That Is Not A Good Idea by Mo Willems is another great example of a character changing and acting in a different way than we would expect.  I do love this devious little tale.

What I love about Gaston by Kelly DiPucchio, illustrated by Christian Robinson, is that most of my students can relate to its message about being expected to fit in in a certain way.  The contrast lies between the characters and how their upbringing has shaped them.

Any day I can use Pete and Pickles by Berkeley Breathed is a good day in our room.  Here, we focus on the change that Pete the pig goes through as he meets Pickles.  Great book also to use for character development and inferring.

Don’t Call Me Choocie Pooh by Sean Taylor and Kate Hindley follow the story of a dog that does not want to be treated in a certain way afraid of what the other dogs will think.  Great ending that shows the change in the character.

Horrible Bear written by Ame Dyckman and illustrated by Zachariah O’Hora is a lovely picture book that shows what happens when you don’t do what is expected.

Don’t Call Me Grandma by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson and illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon is a perfect example of a character that does not fit the stereotype.  Great-Grandmother Nell isn’t anything but warm and fuzzy and as the great-grand daughter starts to understand why, we see a great slice of history as well.

North Woods Girl written by Aimee Bissonette and illustrated by Claudia McGehee is also about a grandma that doesn’t quite fit the mold.

Little Red by Bethan Woolvin is wickedly funny, it follows the path of the regular story but with a twist at the end and it is that twist that provides our contract and contradiction.

Which books have you used for contrast and contradictions?

If you like what you read here, consider reading my book Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students.  The 2nd edition and actual book-book (not just e-book!) comes out September 22nd from Routledge, but rumor has it that it is out on Kindle already!

Be the change, being a teacher, being me, building community, making a difference, new year, principals

Dear Administrators, Please Don’t Forget About the Little Things

Dear Administrators,

I know you are excited.  I see it on Twitter, I hear it on Voxer, and in the conversations I am lucky enough to be a part of.  School is starting and another year is about to begin.  The big ideas are ready, the new initiatives, the dreams, hopes, wishes that come bundled with the start of a new school year.  There is so much potential surrounding you.  So much to do.  And so little time to waste.

But before you get too far in your dreams, think small first, please.  Before you roll out all of the new initiatives, the changes that you know will make everything so much better for everyone, yourself included, make me a promise first; promise to take care of the little things as soon as possible.

Yes, I know it is not fun or exciting to think about those things that you promise teachers that you will do, like approving a form, emailing a parent, looking up that long lost order.  But those little things?  They make a big difference to us teachers.  Those little things that you may not think deserves your limited time right now, those are the ones we need you to also take care of because those things add up to a whole lot of stress for us when left undone.  In fact, some of those little things may be stopping us from fulfilling our big dreams, hopes, and wishes.  

An amazing school doesn’t just come from dreams.  It is built upon a foundation of trust, of accountability, of feeling respected.  And all three of those are built on getting the management side of your job done for those who need it.  There are certain things that we teachers can only ask you to do, we don’t mean to burden you, we don’t mean to add more tasks to your already busy day, but there are some things we are not allowed to do or we are not capable of doing.  There are some things we need you for to make our jobs easier.

So this year, please do dream big.  Please do work for change.  Get excited about the big things.  But don’t forget the little things, those boring to-do tasks that don’t seem pressing.  To you they may be able to wait, but to me, it matters so much that you got them done.  That I can trust you to get them done.  That I know that even the small things deserve attention in the journey we are on.  

Thank you,


PS: Shannon or Jason, if you read this, you do this.  Thank you from the bottom of my very excited heart.

I am a passionate  teacher in Wisconsin, USA,  who has taught 4, 5th, and 7th grade.  Proud techy geek, and mass consumer of incredible books. Creator of the Global Read Aloud Project, Co-founder of EdCamp MadWI, and believer in all children. I have no awards or accolades except for the lightbulbs that go off in my students’ heads every day.  First book “Passionate Learners – Giving Our Classrooms Back to Our Students” can be purchased now from Powerful Learning Press.   Second book“Empowered Schools, Empowered Students – Creating Connected and Invested Learners” can be pre-ordered from Corwin Press now.  Follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.

being a teacher, difference, making a difference, Passion

What Type of Difference Do You Make?

I have been accused of being a good teacher, something I carry with me when the days are long.  I say accused because I am still looking for the proof, the evidence that indeed whatever it is I have chosen to do makes a positive difference in the lives of my students.  We know we make a difference every day, however, we do not always know whether it is a good or a bad one.  And as teachers we make the choice of what type of difference to make.

When I was child I was bullied by my classroom teacher.  For 3 years she hated me with a passion so deep that I ended up switching schools and leaving everything behind.  I was different, having been taught English at a young age, and she did not like anything about me.  She stopped friendships, singled me out whenever anything went wrong, and once kept me in a closet. It was extreme, and not something many students thankfully ever have to experience, but she made a difference in my life.  She taught me how exactly not to treat a child.  How exactly to make a child feel unwanted, unloved, and like an overall outcast.  She taught me many things.

Another teacher thought that I just wasn’t trying hard enough.  Every conference, he would tell my mother that I was smart, but…obviously, I thought school was a joke.  He thought my essays were too dark, too long, too sappy.  He thought my witty comments in class were not so funny.  No matter how hard I tried to emulate the students he did like, he did not like me much.  I never got the good jokes or the extra remarks.  He taught me to believe in myself even if someone didn’t get it.  He taught me it it is ok to be too sappy or too dark as long as it is not all the time.  He taught me that my mother believed in me no matter what he said.

And then there was my music teacher.  Oh, for two years she thought I was a musical idiot.  Although I asked her for help when it came time to compose, she offered me the same explanation over and over again, hoping that this time it would make sense.  It didn’t and what I composed sounded crazy, yet, I had no idea, because I didn’t know how to play it.  I scored high on performance but crashed in music theory and composing, leading me to abandon being a music teacher.  She taught me to explain things properly to my students, and not in the same way but in a different way.  She taught me to listen when someone explains why they do not get it and not just jump to conclusions and move on.  She taught me that I am supposed to believe in the abilities of my students and not box them in.

There were others.  Others who didn’t get me, didn’t believe in me, or lost me as a student.  Thankfully there were many as well that liked me, supported me, and nourished me.  All of of my teachers shaped me into the teacher I am today, however, those that harmed me somehow shaped me more.  They taught me what not to be, provided the example of how not to teach, how to shut out and disillusion.  So when we speak of making a difference in our students lives think of what type of difference we want to make.  Do we want it to be of negative consequences or positive?  Either way, we make a difference, but it is up to us to decide which type.  I hope you choose wisely, after all, these are just children.

being a teacher, believe, making a difference

How Do You Know You Made a Difference?

How do you know you made a difference? Is it the test scores? The grades? The parent approval? Or your principal giving you a thumbs up? Is it the highlights? The low moments? The tears? Or the smiles? Maybe it’s the hugs? Or the excitement? The introductions and the goodbyes?

Or perhaps, just perhaps, it is the people. The kids, the conversations, the handwritten cards. Your self-satisfaction from knowing you tried your hardest. The tiredness that comes from focusing on something you know is important. Perhaps it is the kind words sent your way, a friendly gesture, or a friendly hello. Maybe a plea for help or an offer of assistance shows you made a difference. Maybe someone letting you try that new thing or even that old tried and true thing. Maybe somebody simply believing in you or letting you try again after you failed. Maybe that means you made a difference. Or maybe, just maybe, believing you are making a difference is all that it takes to make it come true. Maybe if you believe in yourself enough you will know that it matter, that it all counts, and that the kids are noticing. Maybe then you will know you are making a diffence.